Stop Removing the Entertainment (Opinion)
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Entertainment is all about fun.
I'm an escape room fanatic. There's no form of entertainment that I enjoy more. I think escape rooms are like sex with my wife...even when it's not good, it's good. But not everyone loves them as much as I do, and that's why game creators have to work hard to not only challenge, but also to entertain players.
Think about the best escape room you've ever played. In that room you felt connected to the story, and that connection resulted in fear, sadness, or joy. Quality, live or pre-recorded actors, a dynamic soundtrack, appealing aesthetics, a welcoming host, and a compelling story all turned the challenge into an immersive experience. You felt the adrenaline rush of a high-speed or difficult challenge, and you were surprised by a unique puzzle. The puzzles were well-designed and integrated into the room, and you were so invested in the story that you didn't even think about how the designers constructed the puzzle or decorated the room. It's possible the room made you feel like a better version of yourself or caused your imagination to enter a new world. Perhaps only rivaled by the best Disney World rides; because of this combination of physical, mental, and emotional stimulants, escape rooms have the ability to entertain in an all-encompassing, fully-immersive way that movies, sports, tabletop games, video games, and other forms of entertainment cannot.
I appreciate gracious game masters who give generous hints because the goal of a room isn't to test the intelligence of the players. The primary goal is to entertain the players. I even prefer rooms that allow teams to go over the one-hour limit and rooms that allow for unlimited hints. What does the game master accomplish by ensuring that a team legitimately completed the room without too much assistance? Nothing.
I'm not alone in this opinion. I recently asked 236 escape room enthusiasts if they prefer game masters to be more generous or more stingy with their hints, and 89% of them prefer game masters who are generous with their hints. Many of them did qualify their response with a statement about not liking it when game masters are too generous with hints when the team hasn't asked for a hint. Players like generous hints, but they like to have control of when they receive the generous hints. That's not to say that they don't like unrequested hints, but when the hints are unrequested hints, they prefer them to be gentle nudges or clever instructions that fit the story of the room. Alex Stinson wrote, "My all-time favorite non-revealing hint came unasked for, but was perfect. We'd gotten the concept right on how to solve, and promptly applied the obvious (easy) solution, which didn't work. The message screen promptly flashed, "You didn't think it would be THAT easy, did you?" This was great, as it told us, yes, you are headed in the right direction, but you haven't done all the things yet. Also great, it showed a sense of humor, and confirmed that the GM WAS paying attention."
Escape rooms are more than competition. They are entertainment, but they also accomplish something that very few forms of entertainment can actually accomplish, team building.